Athletic entertainment is in no shortage during the Nor Cal summers, with the River Cats in full swing, the nearby A’s and Giant’s vying for a playoff berth, and even the Golden State Warriors cruising toward championship contention. But the sporting event that’s growing leaps and bounds in popularity is actually much closer to home, the exciting and fan-friendly Sacramento Republic FC soccer franchise. Republic FC is a recent addition to our professional sports landscape, playing their inaugural season in 2014 to the tune of a United Soccer League championship. This year, they’re already off to a fast start, packing the bleachers with excited fans at Cal Expo’s Bonnie Field as they look to bring the trophy home once again.
Here is everything you need to know about Sacramento Republic FC. Now let’s get out there and cheer them on!
The official name of the team is Sacramento Republic FC, or Football Club. The team name was first announced on July 18, 2013, during the first annual Sacramento Soccer Day, but it was not unfamiliar. Fans were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite name in prior polls, with Sacramento Republic FC coming out the resounding winner.
Fans also voted for the team logo, a shield with a ribbon going through it. The shield displays the team’s colors, old glory red, maple, and eggshell. The shield, or crest, is a representation of the bear and also the nautical star from the California state flag. “Sacramento” is written at the top of the shield and the ribbon below lists the team name, “Republic FC.” At the very bottom lies the motto of city of Sacramento, “Urbs Indomita,” which means “The Indomitable City” in Latin.
Soccer teams all around the world are celebrated for their “kits,” or colorful and innovatively patterned uniforms. And it’s apparent that a lot of thought went into the kits for Republic FC, too, as they had them designed by Italian sportswear company Lotto. The team released the images of their first home and away kits back on December 5, 2013, with badging by primary sponsor UC Davis Children’s Hospital prominent. The home kits are mostly old glory red and the away uniforms, white. The team’s motto, “Urbs Indomita,” is written on the right sleeve of both uniforms.
The United Soccer League:
Sacramento Republic FC plays in the United Soccer League, or USL. The USL, formerly called the USL Professional Division or USL Pro, started in 2011 and has steadily added teams since then. It’s now sanctioned as a feeder league for the United States Soccer Federation and Major League Soccer (MLS,) similar to how minor league baseball clubs feed talent to major league teams.
There are currently 24 teams divided into eastern and western conferences:
Louisville City FC
New York Red Bulls II
Harrisburg City Islanders
Saint Louis FC
Wilmington Hammerheads FC
Toronto FC II
Seattle Sounders FC 2
Orange County Blues FC
Sacramento Republic FC
LA Galaxy II
Arizona United SC
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
OKC Energy FC
Real Monarchs SLC
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Tulsa Roughnecks FC
Sacramento Republic FC’s inaugural season enjoyed an unprecedented level of support from fans. The first game in team history, a 2-1 loss to the Harrisburg City Islanders, was watched by a record 20,231 fans, almost doubling the previous USL attendance record of 10,697. Since then, almost every game has been a sell out. In fact, Republic broke the broke the USL regular season attendance record of 112,748 in July of 2014, packing the bleachers to the tune of 182,107 total fans (158,107 regular season; 24,000 in the playoffs.)
The first regular season in team history was a smashing success for Republic, who won 17 games against 7 losses and 4 ties, finishing second only to Orlando City Sc. But the playoffs is where they really made their impact, beating the Wilmington Hammerheads 4-1 in the quarterfinals, the LA Galaxy in the semifinals, and downing Harrisburg City 2-0 in the finals to bring home the championship.
Notable players and coaches:
Rodrigo López was Republic’s postseason her, scoring a hat trick against Wilmington and going on to earn the Championship MVP award and All-League First Team honors. He picked up where he left off this season, winning the April USL Goal of the Month on a made-for-SportsCenter 60 footer.
Coaches include head man Predrag "Preki" Radosavljević, who won Coach of the Year, and assistant coach and native son, Christopher Maraña Malenab.
Justin Braun is the team captain of Sacramento Republic FC.
The Republic played part of their first season at Hughes Stadium at Sacramento City College. But a state of the art facility was built at Cal Expo. Bonney Stadium, named after local company Bonney Plumbing, Heating, Air and Rooter Service, is a soccer-specific outdoor stadium holds 8,000 fans, first opening its gates on June 20, 2014.
Ticket information and prices:
The 2015 season is off to a great start, with regular season games well into September, when the playoffs start.
There are plenty of options for great seating at affordable prices, including $13 single game tickets, family plans, and season ticket packages. Parking is easy at Cal Expo and you can eat dinner, drink a beer, or buy some great Republic merchandise to support the team.
Republic even has a band of fervent and vocal official supporters, the Tower Bridge Battalion. The “Battalion” got their name from the Tower Bridge that connects Sacramento to West Sacramento and is a city landmark. This fan group sits in one designated area at all home games and spices up the athletic event with chants, drums, face painting, megaphones, and other endearing rituals. When a Republic player scores a goal, it’s become a tradition for players to run over to the Tower Bridge Battalion section and celebrate together.
The Battalion also has a big role off the field, attending outreach, charitable, and community events. On September 9, 2014, the Battalion led a march of thousands of fans and supporters through Sacramento, a demonstration in support of Major League Soccer adding the Republic as an expansion team.
Sacramento Republic FC had record success as a first year franchise, but their sites are set on a much larger stage. The ultimate goal is to get approved as a Major League Soccer franchise, and the wheels are already in motion to make that happen in due time. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and executives from Republic FC, including President Warren Smith, just officially launched “Operation Turnkey,” their plan for MLS approval. For that to happen, the MLS needs to say a major-league caliber stadium built, which ties into local development plans in the Railyards already underway.
It may take a couple years for Sacramento to get approval and Sacramento Republic FC to become a MLS franchise, as the league just awarded teams to Miami and Minneapolis, bringing the league total to a nice, round 24. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Republic FC’s initial success, it’s that they always fight hard and usually come out victorious!